COVID-19: UAE and Saudi residents' appetite for travel grows as borders reopen, survey shows

59% of residents in the UAE and KSA took a domestic or international leisure trip last year, despite the COVID-19 challenge

  
A Saudi man wearing a face mask gets his passport from a Saudi Immigration officer, at the King Khalid International Airport, after Saudi authorities lifted the travel ban on its citizens after fourteen months due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 16, 2021.

A Saudi man wearing a face mask gets his passport from a Saudi Immigration officer, at the King Khalid International Airport, after Saudi authorities lifted the travel ban on its citizens after fourteen months due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 16, 2021.

REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

Appetite for travel is recovering in the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) as a majority of residents plan a vacation in 2021, according to a new survey released on Monday.

Data from the YouGov survey showed that six in 10 (or 59%) of residents in the UAE and KSA took a domestic or international leisure trip last year, despite the Covid-19 challenge.

In 2021, appetite for travel improved due to vaccination rollouts as well as the reopening of borders by some tourist-friendly countries with more than seven in 10 (or 72%) residents having already travelled or intending to travel this year. This is one of the world’s highest rates among 25 countries where the survey was conducted, according to YouGov.

In both the UAE and the KSA, the intent to travel domestically or within the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region increased from 53 per cent in 2020 to 57 per cent in 2021. However, intent to travel abroad has more than doubled since last year from 11 per cent to 26 per cent.

The YouGov data was collected online among 2,515 respondents in the UAE and the KSA between March 24 and April 1, 2021.

Meanwhile, around a fifth of consumers is unlikely to travel in 2021 — a number which nearly halved since 2020 when it stood at 37 per cent, indicating a recovering appetite for travel among residents.

UAE residents are keener to explore international travel while KSA's are looking at staycations this year.

Among those who have travelled or expect to travel in 2021 in the UAE, visiting family and friends emerged as the biggest motivation to travel this year.

The survey showed that Dubai is the first choice for a holiday among UAE residents, followed by the Maldives. Abu Dhabi has also emerged as a popular destination for UAE residents for holidays.

“With travel bouncing back globally and many countries easing travel restrictions, we see more international destinations making it to the wishlist of the UAE travellers. Along with the Maldives, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada, the USA and Japan are some of the other destinations currently being considered by UAE residents for their next holiday,” said YouGov.

Around 10 countries are offering quarantine-free entry to Covid-19 vaccinated UAE residents such as Seychelles, Bahrain, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia and Iceland, among others.

For KSA residents, the UAE is the most popular option, particularly Dubai, outside the kingdom for foreign holidays.

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